Wearing masks

Halloween was yesterday. Naturally, masks have been the subject du jour around the house lately.

There are those 18th Century French masks people would wear to balls, you know, the ones you had to hold up constantly with one arm. And the plastic ones many of us wore for Halloween at some point in our childhood. Or the rubber ones that completely encase your head, giving you that real werewolf look. They were all for fun.

Sometimes a mask is used for practical reasons, like those paper ones the landscape guy uses or the cloth-like ones worn by surgeons to keep blood off their face. More frightening yet, a gas mask, worn to protect you from some nefarious air-born agent.

At other times people wear masks to hide a disfigurement, like the The Phantom or Darth Vader.

Quite honestly, though, we all wear masks. We make up excuses for it, but they all come down to the same thing: we see something “wrong” with ourselves. Sometimes it’s easy to wear the mask and sometimes it takes a little “help” from substances or relationships or whatever. What can we do to make ourselves seem normal? What can we do to alleviate our pain? What can we do to make everyone think we’re happy, have it together and our “normal?”

We all wear masks. We all try to hide something. So, if we’re all doing it, why don’t we all just stop and be ourselves?

It’s because we aren’t comfortable with who we are. As we get close to others and gain a level of intimacy, this changes, but only with those few. How do we expand on this? Instinctively, we know that the masks aren’t a good idea and we shouldn’t wear them; they aren’t who we truly are. The thing is, though, that if we took them off we are afraid people would no longer accept us.

What to do, what to do?

God knows you. Without the mask. He knows what’s going on in that sick little mind of yours. And He still loves you. Seriously. So much so that He sent His Son to die on a cross to pay the price for your sickness. And mine. And everybody else’s. Wearing that mask doesn’t fool God. It will eventually stop fooling your friends and those who spend the most time with you.

Doesn’t it hurt to hold that mask up all day long? Don’t you wish you didn’t have to go through all the crap wearing a mask entails? Like the drama, stress and sleeplessness that goes with living a lie? That’s what it is when we come down to it, isn’t it? A lie.

The reality is that not everyone is capable of accepting people without their masks. Those who know you and love, they will, though. Wearing a mask in front of the youth group you’ve been attending for a few years is kinda silly. Open up and give them a chance to know you and love you more. Wearing a mask around your family is just silly. They know. Believe me, they know. And around the person who loves you most? They might not have the details figured out, but they know something isn’t quite right and they are just waiting for you to trust them enough to be open and honest with them.

In short, the people who matter most in your life are aware of the mask. Take it off. For your sake and their’s. Your relationships will improve. I promise. If I’m wrong, then that person probably wasn’t who you thought they were, either. For the most part though, I’m right. The increased intimacy in friendships and romantic relationships alike will make you closer, better, friends than you will ever be with the mask in place.

During the past several months I’ve been part of a Celebrate Recovery small group. When it started we had almost 20 people in the room. Most were there as an addition to their AA attendance. When anyone brought up problems beyond drugs or booze, they were scoffed at, ridiculed and basically made to feel like they shouldn’t be there. What I saw though, was that those who remained took their masks off and let God have His way with their life. And they’re better off for it.

Pain, addiction, hang-ups of every sort … they will be with you all your life. Taking off your mask and letting people get close to you will help you. In Ecclesiastes it says that two are better than one; they get a better return on their work and when one falls, the other can help him back to his feet. If you’re wearing a mask, they won’t see you fall and won’t be able to help you back up. Take off the mask.

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2 thoughts on “Wearing masks

  1. Jay, this is a great post. This is one of my favorite parts: “We all wear masks. We all try to hide something. So, if we’re all doing it, why don’t we all just stop and be ourselves?”

    It’s ironic that people wear masks in order to not get hurt, but it’s when someone lowers their mask, that I find I really care about them and can actually relate.

    • Thank you so much. Some people, most it seems, want people to think they have it all together and are perfect, but each of us knows that perfection is impossible, so why do we accept this from people we care about? I, like you, find I’m more likely to care when I know someone has taken off the mask.

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